Monday, February 28, 2011

People Suck . . . All Your Time, If You Let Them

I have discovered the secret to the biggest hindrance to work-at-home types (including homeschoolers):


That's it. That's the biggest problem: People who are time-suckers.

Back when I was homeschooling, I'd get lots of requests: watch my kids, water my plants, pick up so-and-so at the airport . . . if I had a nickel for every favor people asked of me, I could buy myself an island and get away from these people.

You may be saying, "Wow. What a kind and generous person Brenda must be, how giving, that these people know they can come to her for help."

Um . . . no.

The reason all these people came to me for help was because "I had nothing better to do." See, all I did all day was sit around while my kids read books. I mean, that's all homeschoolers do, right?

And when I started writing? Same thing.

Since I don't have a 9 to 5 job, I'm just sitting home, eating bon-bons and watching Law & Order all day. I mean, how much work can writing REALLY be? I just sit around and make up stuff, take a few minutes to jot it down, and then drop it in an envelope. And sometimes people even PAY me for this. Being a writer is living the life of Riley, right? That means I should have 23 1/2 hours leftover every day to take care of everyone else's little errands.

Now, I'm not talking about the important stuff. Time for significant others, time for kids, time driving your elderly mom to the doctor . . . those are important things. I'm talking about all the little irrelevant things that people ask you to do because they don't think you're time has value. Because that's what it really comes down to. A good way to tell the difference is to ask yourself this question:

"If I had a job making twenty bucks an hour, would I skip work to accomplish the task that's being asked of me?"

If the answer is yes, then obviously the task is important enough to give up your time. If the answer is no, then it's a task that isn't worth the value of your time, and you should just say NO! I know it's hard, but you have to. If you try to please everyone else, you'll never please yourself. And then the precious writing time you've set aside for yourself will end up frittered away.

Last week, this quote showed up in my Twitterfeed:
@AdviceToWriters "Leave the dishes unwashed and the demands on your time unanswered. Be ruthless and refuse to do what people ask of you. LYNNE SHARON SCHWARTZ

Words for writers to live by!

What about you? Have you been able to draw a line in the sand with those around you?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Links for Writers, Feb. 25th

Includes links for further resources to help you on the road to publication.

How to Get Published

I don't just recommend this resource because sometimes my links are in it, lol. Lots of great links here.

Tips for Writers

Top Ten Author Promotion Missteps

Write a Better Novel

Writer's Resource Directory

Get a weekly writing prompt from Poets & Writers Magazine

I use this technique in the novel I'm currently revising. The antagonist is essentially who the protagonist will be if she doesn't change her ways.

Mirroring Heroes & Villains

Great places for readers to hang out; great places for writers to find and interact with their "customers."

If you like/care about your protagonist, your reader probably will, too.

Building Our Protagonist
And last but not least, the oh-so-important story question

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Black Shuck

Today's creature is the Black Shuck. I hadn't heard of this creature before. Thanks to @ParaYourNormal on Twitter for bringing this beast to my attention.

The black shuck is a ghostly black dog that roams the English countryside.

The only thing I don't understand is why it has such a silly name. If I ever use a Black Shuck as a creature in a story, I'm going to have to come up with a spookier moniker for it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wacky Wednesday, Feb. 23rd

Your weird news and general funny stuff for today!

You may wonder why I included this one.

Hotel Introduces Super-Strong Toilets

It has personal relevance. When my kids were young, we did a lot of traveling into the western part of the state during our homeschooling adventures. One of the places we visited every few years was Painted Canyon, part of Teddy Roosevelt National Park. However, we always had to have our bathroom breaks before we arrived because the kids were afraid of the toilets. I don't know what kind of toilets they were, but they actually created a hurricane in the bathroom when they flushed. My kids were certain that they were going to be sucked away if they used them.

He's okay. The head injuries obviously didn't do any (further) damage to this guy.

Man Who Fell Off SUV was Holding Mattresses

Think Lady Ga-Ga was there? And I looked at the beer mug dress and saw hand grenade, not beer mug. Or is it just me?

Odd Outfits: Wacky New York Fashion Week

And I thought I was bad about putting off visiting the doc

Doctor's Remove Knife From Man's Head After 4 Years

Poking fun at fantasy book trailers (via @CandlemarkGleam)

Parody book trailer for Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Top Ten Signs You're a Twitter Addict (via @CHRISHOTMAIL1)

Funny quote of the week (via @Georg_Grey)

Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian. - Robert Orben

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Zombie News Shambling Your Way Today

Even though I didn't win the stagger-on role, I still love AMC's The Walking Dead. Their loss . . . I would have made a great shambling predator. ;)

Some The Walking Dead news:

Gale Anne Hurd Talks ‘Walking Dead’ Season 2

The Walking Dead Toys Come Shambling Our Way
And for more news on all things zombie (movies, comics, tv, etc.), check out

Monday, February 21, 2011

Even Horror Writers Get Scared . . . of Writing

This is a great post about the fears that writers have:

Writing Terrors

I think we writers are our own worst enemy. The thing that holds us back most isn't the whims of the publishing industry or the bottom-line booksellers or the fickle reader . . . it's ourselves. We let our fears hold us back.

Yes, there are exceptions. You know the ones. They stop by the writing groups on Dec. 2 and say, "Okay. I wrote fifty-thousand words for NaNo in November. Now who do I send it to for publishing?"

But the rest of us? We wallow in self-doubt.

Three fears that niggle at the back of my mind:

Fear of being a one-hit wonder . . . which is ridiculous, since I don't even have a one-hit yet!

Fear that when I finish editing my novel (notice I said, "when," not "if"), the only way I'll ever sell any is out of the trunk of my car.

Fear of scathing reviews. I've already vowed I'm not going to read reviews. I'm sure, eventually, someone will say something and I'll become aware of a bad review, but I'm going to avoid it for as long as I can. I used to sell stuff on eBay, and you would not believe the Armageddon that ensued after I got a soft positive or neutral . . . and when I got a negative, my husband would watch me like a hawk to make sure I wasn't buying anything that could be turned into an explosive device! And for the record, the few neg/neutrals I received were because I didn't accept Paypal unless the buyer had a confirmed address. I stated this several times in every auction (in bold and red, even), and at least once per month I'd get some buyer emailing me saying "Paypal says you won't take my payment. How come?" The irony of the whole situation is that I was selling educational products, the sort of thing used by homeschooler, tutors, teachers, and parents taking an active role in their children's education . . . and yet they couldn't read and follow simple auction instructions? F-minus, people, F-minus.

See? Now can you imagine how I'd take a bad writing review, lol?

But my biggest fear right now is that I've lost my mojo. I had built up a pretty good head of steam and was getting published on a fairly regular basis (and had actually sold all of my finished short stories). Then life interrupted and I had to take a three-year break from writing. What if whatever magic was powering me then has disappeared?

Ridiculous, I know. But they say muscles you don't use atrophy, so what if that happens with the "creative" muscle, too? Or the "editor" muscle, so now my polishing skills stink? I know of one muscle that hasn't atrophied: the inner critic. Wish that one would dry up and blow away.

So to sum it up: I'm afraid of failure; but I'm also afraid of success.

Man . . . we writers are a messed up bunch.

What's the biggest fear holding you back?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Links for Writers, Feb. 18th

The brief stuff is what's always the hardest for me (loglines/elevator pitch/etc.). After I've spent so much time weaving this great-big story, now I'm supposed to summarize it in a mere sentence or two. Torture. Here are two links to help:

Conquering the logline

How to Write a Back Blurb

I have problems with #2, finishing what I start. I must have 100 orphaned stories laying around.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Writers

And all these years I thought I was just flighty. I have all those orphaned stories because I'm a Renaissance Soul (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it).

Are You a Renaissance Soul?

Excellent advice on making your book a "can't put it down" read.

Ending Hooks: Getting Your Reader to Turn the Page

Good post on writer's block.

To Write or Not to Write

And last but not least, an informative newsletter:

Writing World Newsletter

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Welcome Blog-Hoppers!

Today is the launch of the SheWrites blog-hop. Bad timing for me, as I've had some other issues that have interrupted the regular blog schedule.

Trust me, first time visitors: it does get better, and I actually do post five days a week.

But before we get back on schedule, and in honor of the "getting to know you" blog-hop, today's post is 8 surprising things about me. Knock on wood . . . the regular posting schedule will resume tomorrow with my "Brother Can You Spare a Link" post with links of interest to writers.

And now, eight surprising things about me:

1. In my spare time, I like to explore caves (real, hole-in-the-woods caves, not tourist attractions) and chase storms. I was once in an F-1 tornado (as in: "I was inside the damn car while the tornado grabbed it and shook it like a snow globe") .

2. I'm not even remotely a girly-girl. Up until recently, I owned 3 pairs of shoes: one pair hiking boots, one pair tennis shoes, one pair sandals. However, "Tabitha's Salon Takeover" and "America's Next Top Model" are two of my guilty pleasures. Miss J is my hero.

3. I collect winged lions/cats (not angels; no halos, just wings), swords, and guns. The lions and the swords are generally decorative, the guns are not. I have a concealed carry permit and can shoot the nuts off a gnat. For 16 1/2 days every year, I go survivor and spend my days hunting deer, hiding in the woods, eating potted meat. All other considerations are secondary to deer hunting for those 2+ weeks.

4. I have a unique personal style. Although most of the clothes in my closet are either black or camo, I do like sparkly things. I went into a western store recently and fell in love with a line of purses they have: Mossy Oak camouflage covered in sequins and rhinestones. So we decided that my personal style is "Redneck Drag Queen." I can live with that.

5. I was never a dog person until I got my dog, who was supposed to be an advanced replacement for my husband's aging dog (we live in an . . . um . . . disreputable neighborhood, and a guard dog is very beneficial). She bonded with me instead of him and I have no complaints about it. We watch the Westminster Kennel Club show together and I bought her a NY Yankees shirt that she loves to wear (she's a German Shepherd, by the way). I have almost no pictures of my kids or my grand kids on my phone, but a hundred pictures of my dog. I call her my sweet ba-boo and buy her presents constantly (which, by the way, she unwraps all by herself because she's the smartest, most beautiful dog in the world).

6. I love crows. I used to have a pet crow named Edgar. Now, when there are crows in the trees outside, I freak my dogs out (and my neighbors) by cawing back to them. I'm sure the neighbors just chalk it up to, "it's that crazy writer lady again."

7. I'm petrified by steel wool and hornets/wasps/non-honey-type-bees. Ironic since the remedy to keep hornets/wasps from moving into a hole in your house is to stuff the hole with steel wool.

8. Thanks to some weird rumor mill, the neighborhood kids think I'm the local witch (hey, maybe it's that talking to crows thing) and believe crazy things like, "if they step into my yard, creatures will come out of the ground and eat them." I do nothing to dispel these rumors and generally encourage them. Just wait 'til I'm a famous writer and I convert this place into a Gothic mansion. ;)

Thanks for visiting, and stop back tomorrow for some handy links for writers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Writer Interrupted

Remember that post about life getting in the way of writing? Here's a good example. The very next day after the new blog schedule goes up, the whole thing gets blown out of the water.

My mother has had complications from her cancer surgery and I had to (semi-forcibly) have her readmitted to the hospital. Today and the next few days are going to be filled with working out a lot of medical details and dirty looks for me being so "mean" as to put her back in the hospital. But what has to be done, has to be done.

This means, of course, that I'm not going to be blogging for a day or two. I'm going to have my hands full with this fragile little old woman who's going to be jumping at the first opportunity to put her foot up my ass. :)

But I'll be back soon. I promise. As long as she doesn't break my fingers.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

New Blog Schedule

Thanks to revision taking more time than I had originally thought, I need to free up a little more time to concentrate on the novel. The blog schedule is changing a wee bit and weekend posts will be dropped.

The new schedule will be:

Monday: From the Desk of . . . (the writing life);

Tuesday: Your Frightly News (spec-fic related info, upcoming book and movie releases, rants about remakes, etc.);

Wednesday: Wacky Wednesday (weird news as usual, but also funny stuff that normally was on the schedule for Saturday);

Thursday: Things that go Bump in the Night (creatures, real and imagined);

Friday: Brother Can You Spare a Link (links for writers).

As you can see, the only real changes are that Goulash is dropped (Sunday) and Saturday's funny stuff is moved in with Wednesday's Weird News.

Hopefully this new schedule will free up the extra time needed for the intensive revision and get the process back on track.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Evil Beaver? (Jerry Mathers)

There was no dress code when I worked in computer programming, either, but we had to at least wear pants.

Top Ten Reasons Writing Fiction Rocks

Hm. Must be a writer-thing: my cats look at me accusingly, too ("Why aren't you in the study, writing? 'Tabitha's Salon Takeover' will be on again later.") Or Maybe it's not that they want me to write; maybe they just don't like having to watch "Tabitha's Salon Takeover."

A Day in the Life of an Unemployed Writer Person

Don't forget to scroll down. There are 10 bonus signs after the original list. And yes, I AM a Twitter addict.

Warning Signs of Twitter Addiction

Cue Omen music. Who knew Jerry Mathers could look so evil!

12 Signs Your Kid Will Become a Supervillian

I'm a big fan of short, simple jokes (or as my hubby would say, "She likes the lamest jokes EVER!"). A couple of my favorites:

via  @Derek_Haines on Twitter
Suicide bombing instructor: 'Now, I'm only going to show you this once! Ok?'

 via @daytonward on Twitter
If you can read this, my #$%@$#! cloaking device is broken! (StarTrekBumperStickers)

And the one that's a life-long favorite (if you ever meet me in-person, I'll torture you by telling you this joke at least once, and probably more).

A grasshopper walks into a bar. The bartender looks at him and says, "Hey! Did you know there's a drink named after you?" Grasshopper looks stunned. "There's a drink named 'Steve'?"

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

ET Go Home

I'll admit it: I believe in UFOs. My favorite show when I was younger was "Project Blue Book," about the secret government agency that handled UFO encounters. I think it's a reasonable belief: with all the planets in all the universe, is it likely that we are the only life? Probably not. And if there are other life forms, is it reasonably plausible that some life form may have evolved beyond us and be capable of more advanced space travel? Plausible. 

I've had experience with unidentified flying objects. These experiences may have perfectly reasonable explanations . . . but they remain unexplained so far. So for now, they remain UFOs.

I've had two experiences with green objects falling through the sky. I've seen meteors come far into the atmosphere before and they usually don't glow green--perhaps the reasonable explanation in these cases is that some kind of atmospheric condition caused these two examples to glow green.

One happened when we were moving from the air force base to a local small town. Something large and green streaked low across the sky. It looked like it was barely over tree tops, but at a distance it's hard to tell; could have been several thousand feet up. But whatever it was, it was huge. Based on its size relative to the treetops, it looked the size of a Volkswagen. It either crashed very far off (never heard any boom) or didn't crash at all (burned up . . . or flew off).

The second green object was only a few years ago. I was out in the back yard late at night when I spotted a green dot in the sky. I thought it was a plane, but it kept getting bigger and bigger, like it was coming toward me. It suddenly increased speed and streaked crosswise across the sky. Halfway across the sky, it veered again and shot straight upward and disappeared into the sky. I don't think meteors go up.

But the scariest encounter with something unidentified happened to a me and a friend back when we were teenagers. We were walking around our small town late one winter evening. It was overcast and the street lights were on. When we stepped out of the circle of one street light, I noticed we could still see our shadows. We looked up, and something was hovering below the clouds. It was big, and bright, but we couldn't make out the shape because of the lights on the bottom of it. We watched it for a second, and then it darted back into the clouds. The really freaky part is that we could see it in the clouds as it moved away from us, because it was so bright it was lighting them up from the inside. While we stood there looking at each other, not believing what we'd just scene, several fighter jets whizzed overhead, traveling in the direction the glowing thing had disappeared.

Definitely not a meteor. Experimental government vehicle? Maybe. Who knows.

But these encounters are probably the reason so many of my stories include creatures from the skies.

Here are a few more UFO links for you.

UFOs over Utah Drop Flare-like objects

A UFO is Still a UFO: From Antiquity to Today

Project Blue Book Archive

A couple of links courtesy of SCW Books

Pilot/Aircrew cases (via Extraterrestrial Contact)

Jerusalem UFO (Fox News)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wacky Wednesday News

The best part of the story? Where the police spokesman says "the toilet and materials were arranged in a way that raised suspicion." Graffiti covered toilet on sidewalk in front of office: no big deal. Toilet and materials arranged in shape of Orion's Belt: now that's suspicious!

Suspicious Toilet With Phone Not Dangerous

Now this sounds like my kind of race! I'd run two miles for a Krispy Kreme. Mmmm.

Runners Dash 2 Miles, Scarf Doughnuts, Sprint Back

It wasn't the para sailing that killed him, it was all the celebratory cheeseburgers afterwards.

Russia's Parasailing Donkey Dies of a Heart Attack

More embarrassing local news. I swear, people, all of us who live here are NOT like this!
"Look! A dead raccoon."
"Cool. Let's keep it."
Yanks stiff "dead" (more likely in frozen-stasis) raccoon out of snowbank.
Coach: "Sure. Toss it in the back of the bus with everybody's luggage."
And yes, although this article doesn't mention it, my local paper reported this story and stated that the coaches and adults on the bus knew the team was hauling around a dead raccoon. WTF!

ND Team Exposed to Raccoon Pulled From Tournament

And this one's sure to create a lot of outrage. I thought my state would get "alcoholism" (I'd always heard that my state has the highest alcohol-consumption rate in the US), but instead it got "ugliest residents." Maybe the two are related.

Why Your State Sucks

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Duke Nukem Forever, baby!

The best . . .news . . . EVER: Duke Nukem is back! Duke Nukem was one of the first computer games I ever played, and it remains my favorite. Hail to the King, baby!

Blastr: We've waited 13 Years . . .

And the official site:
Duke Nukem Forever

I might just buy it. <grin> Okay, I'll definitely buy it. And then this blog and everything else will go dark while I dive into a Duke Nukem playing marathon.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Local Writer's Conference

Our local paper has started early promotion for the local writer's conference. I have mixed feelings.

I love the conference because I'm acquainted with many of the organizers. When I went back to college over a decade ago (as an . . . um . . . older than average student), I originally majored in Accounting. But every second I wasn't in an accounting class, I was hanging out in Merrifield Hall in the English department. Those were tough years. I really wanted to be a writer . . . but I knew that I'd have a better chance of making a decent income (or any income, for that matter) by going into accounting. The good folks in the English department did everything they could to try and encourage me, including giving me an assignment to dress up in a cow costume (complete with floppy udder) for a skit in one of my required English classes (the point was, they were trying to get me to recover my sense of humor, because I had lost it somewhere--probably in the accounting department while trying to calculate stock splits).

And I love the history of the conference. For a writer's conference in the middle of nowhere, in a podunk town, that's always scheduled during North Dakota spring (when it's cold and damp and slushy and ugly), our writer's conference has an amazing history of bringing in famous authors like Eudora Welty!

But I'm disappointed because it's not like a typical writer's conference; or not like what I've heard other conferences are like. There are no pitch sessions, no genre writers (all literary), no editors or publishers. It's mainly just writers/screenwriters talking about their work and the craft of writing. There are public readings, but I've never been to one--can you picture me standing up and reading a zombie story right after the man who writes about his abusive father and just before the poet? Yeah. That'll go over well.

So I look forward to it and I go, and I usually enjoy it . . . but I always come away feeling slightly unsatisfied. It's a combo of "I wish it was like other writer's conferences" (with pitch sessions and editors and publishers) and "this isn't a conference for writers like me" (nothing genre).

Course, maybe that'll change when I get my novel published and they ask me to appear on a panel (wink)!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

RIP MySpace?

Although I'm a member of almost every social networking site out there, I'm really only active on two: Facebook and Twitter. The rest of my social networking accounts are fed daily updates from Twitter, ping, and this blog. Once a month, I actually log into each of the sites to make sure things are working and to keep my accounts active.

While doing the logging in this month, I realized something: MySpace is dead.

So when did it die? And who killed it? And why?

When I dived into the social networking sites (back in October--not that long ago), everyone considered Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace the big three. "If you sign up for nothing else, at least do those three," they advised. Here it is less than six months later, and I've already forgotten about MySpace. I give it the same attention as FriendFeed or Jaiku.

It's too bad, really, because I actually liked MySpace better originally (I'm a sucker for the status emoticon, I know). But all the action is happening on Twitter and Facebook.

What do you think? Is MySpace dead, or are you still active there? Should I be giving it more attention, or should I let it go the way of the Jaiku?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Zombies and Chuck Norris, Yay!

This is so true. I'm guilty of constantly making up back-story for people I see in public as well as needing my family to comfort me over the death of a character. I've also worn out the "J" key on my laptop, written plot notes on toilet paper with an eyeliner (don't ask), and I do worry what government authorities will think if they see my Google search history (it's a running joke in our house: if the men in black w/ earpieces show up at the door, run).
You Know You're a Writer . . .

I've played the Chuck Norris game at the bar, so I love this (legendary writers respect, too)!
20 Neil Gaiman Facts

Click on the zombies to make beautiful music (there's probably something seriously wrong with me since I find this endlessly amusing).
The Zombie Tabernacle Choir

I so want one of these. It fits in with my "Burt Gummer, always be prepared" philosophy ("backup-backup generator").

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Blog on Blogs About Blogging . . . oy!

Blogging is an important part of the writing life, whether you blog as extra writing practice, to connect with other writers, or to connect with your readers and potential readers.

So today, some blogging links.

Think before you blog:

How to Write a Readable Writing Blog:

The 7 Essential Parts of a Blog

20 Websites That Will Make You a Better Blogger

6 Ways to Constantly Produce Quality Blog Content

What's Your Blog Identity?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Real scary, real vampires

So this one's not a vampire per say, but it's worth a mention. Tadpoles are one of the strangest looking creatures in the animal kingdom; but can you picture one with little vampire fangs sticking out of its mouth?
Vampire tadpoles

So much for just being the butterfly's ugly cousin.
Vampire Moth

Spiders are bad enough, but a spider that prefers human blood?
Vampire spider

This would put a whole new spin on Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds"
Vampire finches

As if a regular old leech isn't creepy enough, this one has super-size teeth and likes to live in your nose.
T. Rex of Leeches

Even better. This vampire fish swims into . . . um . . . "any orifice" . . . and then proceeds to attach itself and feed.
Candiru catfish

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

They're all yo-yos, if you ask me

Bouquets with a chocolate bouquet? They'll make a fortune!

As someone who used to collect novelty lighters, I can see how this could happen.
Grenade Mistaken for Cigarette Lighter
Now I keep my grenades and my novelty-grenade-shaped-lighters separate.

Now here's a guy who plans ahead.
Man checks into jail with joints sewn in underwear

Think they'll throw the book at her? (yeesh)
Woman pleads guilty in ketchup attack on library

Spend the days before the apocalypse vacationing in sunny France? Sounds good to me.
Will This Mysterious French Town Survive the End of the World?

This could have been so much worse: the headline could have been, "Dozens Killed in Giant Yo-Yo Fail."
Plans for the world's biggest yo-yo spin out of control

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Holy Grail of Pitches & a Buffet of Free Reads

I don't know if this really counts as news or not, but it's so awesome that I have to include it somewhere. This isn't just important to sci-fi fans & Trekkies, but also to writers and screenwriters: Gene Roddenberry's original pitch for the Star Trek series!

Blastr article: Found! Gene Roddenberry's original 1964 pitch for Star Trek!

The full pitch document (pdf)

Craving brains? Here are new releases in zombie fiction:

Fangoria: new zombie books

Last but not least, the latest in free spec-fic:

SF Signal: Free Fiction